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Everything is turning green around here. Tulips are already blooming and most of the trees have leaves. This picture from spring of 1982 seemed appropriate for this Throwback Thursday. Mom is helping me inspect the plants coming up out of the dirt.

The general media has picked up on a huge bug that rocked the tech world this week. I’m sure it’s partially because it has such a great name and logo. But what is Heartbleed and how does it affect you?

This isn’t a virus or malware that affects your computer. It’s a bug in some very critical code that is run by a lot of web servers. Basically, it gives out somewhat random chunks of computer memory to anyone who asks for it. That memory usually contains gibberish but sometimes it will contain things like user passwords or keys to the encryption of all the traffic going in and out of the server. The webcomic xkcd has a very simple explanation of the bug.

There are a bunch of things that need to happen to fix the hole. First the server admins need to patch their systems, get new encryption keys, and replace their SSL certificate. Once that happens, you can complete the final piece of the puzzle by changing your password. Some websites are being proactive and telling you when they’re ready for you to change your passwords. Others are being more quiet about it.

This whole thing has been *gasp* overhyped by the media. Yes, it’s a potentially big vulnerability but the odds of someone exploiting you are low, the patch is relatively quick and easy, and there’s evidence that nobody launched a widespread attack using this vulnerability before it was announced. That being said, updating your passwords is still a good idea. There are various lists around the internet that tell you which sites were affected, but this is one a pretty good resource. They are updating it regularly and telling you when it’s time to change your password (if you need to change your password at all.)

If you’re changing all these passwords but you aren’t using a password manager, consider getting started with something like LastPass.com. It’s free and easy. If you’re already a LastPass member, run their security checker tool. They’ll tell you which of your passwords need to be changed. LastPass was affected by Heartbleed too, but because they encrypt all of their traffic even underneath the SSL encryption, there’s no chance that any of the LastPass data was exploited.

So don’t fret about this too much, but do make sure you’re changing passwords as needed.

About a month ago I took some time and reorganized the peg board above my workbench. Sounds exciting, right? The odd thing is that I did it on a Saturday and on Sunday morning when I told Tim what I had done he said “I’m doing that exact same thing this afternoon!”

The peg board mostly just holds tools like you’d normally expect but I got two special pieces for it too. One is a paper towel holder and the other is a metal basket.  I wouldn’t recommend the paper towel holder because it was pretty difficult to install (which is ridiculous on a peg board), but the metal basket is great and I might get one or two more. It’s a convenient place to hold pencils, ear plugs, headphones, etc.

As part of my effort to improve the workbench, I also added a shelf below the main working area. It gives me more places to keep tools. Generally, I like the shelf but I’ve hit my knee on it a couple times while sitting on my stool. I might need a little redesign or a piece of foam to go over the edge.

What you can’t see in this photo is that I also have a place to mount a bench vise that I got for Christmas. I drilled holes on the left side where the scroll saw is currently sitting. Since I don’t use the vise every day, it sits on the shelf under the bench.

I’ve been waiting until my workbench is clean to take this photo, but you know what? It’s a work bench and it’s generally covered in a project. That’s what it’s for!

I know I’ve been making a lot of Power Query posts lately, but once you get into it, you start seeing data everywhere! The latest example is a movie draft that I participate in with some friends. I won’t explain what a movie draft is except to say that it’s like fantasy football for movies. We participate in a huge league run by Brian Brushwood and friends. They post a spreadsheet with all the data here: http://draft.diamondclub.tv/

I pulled those spreadsheets into Power Query, cleaned up the data, and voila, now we have an easy way to track just the people in our little group! You can see it at http://bit.ly/excelmovies We get interesting views like a leaderboard just for our group, and a list of the movies left for each one of us. I might add some more data views later, but these are the basics.

So if you’re in our movie group, how can you use it? You can use it passively by just visiting that bitly link every once in a while. I’ll update the data periodically for your enjoyment.

If you want to update the data yourself, add your own friends to the list of names to watch, and/or learn how the workbook was built, then you’ll need to do a little extra work.

  1. Install Office 2010 or 2013
  2. Install Power Query. If it fails then you don’t have the the right version of Excel. Sorry, you’ll have to stop here. (I continue to tell management that I think this is a bad decision.)
  3. Go to the bitly link and click Edit Workbook > Edit in Excel
  4. Save the file as a local copy.
  5. Click Data > Refresh All and wait a bit. When the status bar along the bottom of Excel completes then you should be seeing new data.
  6. You can see the Power Query queries that make up the workbook by clicking the Power Query ribbon and then clicking Workbook. You’ll see a side pane appear and you can double click any of those queries to start digging in.

Unfortunately I think Step 2 is going to stop a lot of you, but at least you can view the online link. And if Power Query doesn’t work with your version of Office, please feel free to complain in our forums!

Last September, I didn’t step foot in the office. I was on paternity leave the whole month. It was a wonderful time to spend at home with my family and connect with Tyla and Elijah. When I got back to work, I took stock of the changes. There was a long list of work that I had been doing on a regular basis that hadn’t happened for a month… and for many of those things, nobody cared! It was a big revelation for me. As I spend time in the same job, my list of tasks is always finding new additions. I rarely cull the list so it just grows. But does it all really need to be done? Obviously not if nobody cared that it hadn’t happened in a long tie. Some things, of course, need to happen whether people care or not but that’s an exception to the rule.

As my free time at home gets squeezed more and more (parenting takes a lot of time!), I’ve been trying hard to apply this at home too. I regularly ask myself “What if I don’t do X?” What if I don’t mow the lawn or clean the furnace filter? Well that’s clearly not good. But what if I don’t watch that television series or watch that movie or spend a day doing a hobby? It takes some practice to answer that question honestly because there are many activities that I think make me who I am. But once I forced myself to find a good answer, I’ve been able to remove a ton of old habits from my life. And you know what? I don’t miss them! In fact, it feels liberating to have all this time handed back to me.

Having a child was a forcing function to make this happen since it put such a huge constraint on my available free time, but it feels like a very healthy experience. Instead of trying to schedule in a bunch of habits, I now schedule in time to just “veg” and do some random activity that used to be a time-sucking habit. It’s a good balance for me right now and lets me focus on things that I really do consider important and high priority.

It seems like a short chunk of time
Since I married my partner in crime
But now there’s a son
Who can nearly run
And my thoughts are all metered and rhymed

I can’t end a line with your name
No rhyme exists I claim
Four years ago
You married your beau
And my heart is still aflame

If you’re running Windows 8, you probably got a pretty big update this week. The Windows team has been listening to the feedback and has made some pretty key tweaks to improve your user experience. PCWorld says “This digital love letter should woo over all but the most obstinate of the PC faithful.” So what’s included?

The user experience is tailored depending on the type of device you’re using. If it’s a traditional mouse and keyboard desktop computer, you’ll boot to the desktop and media files get opened in the desktop version of the apps instead of the full screen Modern App experience. Additionally, you can right click on tiles on the start screen and there’s a bar at the top of the screen for full screen apps with common controls like minimize, close, etc. Those full screen Modern Apps will now show up in your taskbar on the desktop just like any other app.

There are a couple other tweaks, but those are probably the biggest things you’ll notice after you apply the update. Go forth and enjoy! And keep giving feedback not just on Windows but on all your favorite Microsoft products. They listen!

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